Explore Freedom

Explore Freedom » 9/11 Could Have Been Prevented

FFF Articles

9/11 Could Have Been Prevented


From Richard Clarke to Condoleezza Rice, the security establishment agrees on one thing: there was no sure way to stop the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Maybe, maybe not. But if that is correct, it doesnt get the Bush administration and its predecessors off the hook. The very inability to prevent terrorism is a powerful argument against the interventionist polices they followed for decades.

If there is no way to stop a decentralized network of suicidal killers from murdering innocent civilians using low-tech means, that is all the more reason to stay out of foreign hornets nests. The Founders of this country were right. Intervention leads to trouble.

Is that the lesson being learned from the work of the 9/11 commission? Of course not. Nothing can be permitted to impede Americas mission to reform the Muslim world and even the religion of Islam itself.

Americans will not learn the anti-interventionist lesson from their leaders. So theyll have to learn it themselves. Their lives may depend on it.

For many decades American presidents have thought that they could bring order to the world, particularly the Middle East. This would have been a problem even if U.S. administrations had tried to be neutral. But they were never neutral. They always had agendas. Whether it was the Israel-Palestinian conflict or other frictions in the region, U.S. administrations sought outcomes that satisfied their own politically motivated projects. Justice had nothing to do with the matter. As a result, the United States has a record of helping to overthrow elected leaders in favor of despots, of arming ruthless autocrats, and of bolstering the occupation of property taken from Palestinians. The Middle East is a region rife with injustice and U.S. policy has been allied with much of it.

Who would not expect such a record to incite hatred against those responsible for it? And it was always to be expected though not condoned that fanatical elements among the aggrieved would take their wrath out on innocent Americans.

What makes the terrorist threat so frustrating is that it was entirely foreseeable. Anti-interventionists warned about it for many years. But the overseers of the imperial agenda smugly believed they could pursue their objectives with impunity. When the big attack finally came, they made the best of it: they used it to augment their power and to intervene even more aggressively. The very consequences of their program became grounds for redoubling their ill-advised efforts.

Part of their propaganda campaign is the claim that the Islamists hate us because we love freedom. If they did, they would say so. Instead, whenever they explain their hatred, they specify U.S. intervention in their societies. There is no reason to believe they would be attacking a free and noninterventionist America.

The question now is, when will the American people understand? The crimes of 9/11 should have focused attention on the policies that made Arabs willing to commit such heinous acts here. But the Bush administration and the bipartisan political establishment as a whole made sure that Americans would draw only lessons that did not threaten the interventionist program. Anyone who attempted to point the finger at those policies was stigmatized as an appeaser or terrorist sympathizer. By and large, the news media fell into line.

Lets take the administration at its word. The horrors at the World Trade Center could not have been prevented by actions taken between January 20 and September 11, 2001. The real issue is whether they could have been prevented had U.S. administrations followed the noninterventionist advice of the Founding Fathers. The answer is obvious.

  • Categories
  • This post was written by:

    Sheldon Richman is former vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.